Preserve, Promote & PLAY in the name of science
When we tell people that we make toys, their reaction usually unfolds like this, they become visibly lighter, get a big smile and say things like, “Awe, really, how cool, lucky you!” And we do feel lucky, it’s truly a joyful job, if you like kids, what could be better than making things they love. However, as society progresses and more pressure is put on measurable childhood achievement, the simple act of kids playing has taken on an all new importance. It is no longer enough to simply know that kids have fun. We must encourage the important tenets of childhood and aim to PRESERVE, PROMOTE & PLAY. (Hence the 3Ps)
Maybe we’re a bit nostalgic and perhaps that’s why we get the reaction from others that we do because, like us, they’re reminiscent of those years filled with endless, unplugged, carefree play. Growing up is different now. Globally, children are playing less. They’re being raised in an environment under increased protection and spending more time in the classroom at an earlier age. There’s the notion that early childhood learning is better for their development but research has proven the opposite to be true where unscheduled activity creates the foundation for successful life skills, such as, focus, resilience and character. With the statistics to support it, we don’t feel unjustified in our quest to try and PRESERVE those precious unscheduled moments.
There are endless ways that we adults can actively PROMOTE healthy, unscheduled play. Listed below are a few suggestions of how to get started:
Offer simple, open-ended toys that allow for the most creativity. Blocks, dolls, balls and dress up are great items to encourage their imaginations rather than set limitations like other activities with specific rules.
Cut back on extracurriculars. One sport or class per season is great but any more after school activities will probably exhaust a child’s energy and their interest in free play. Sadly, there’s research confirming kids’ whose time is over-organized have a higher rate of becoming anxious and depressed.
Play with the neighbor kids or invite a school friend over. Then step back and let the kids have spontaneous play. They’ll be so grateful for the opportunity to create their own special moment together.
Get outside. In any weather, the beautiful days or bundle up in the rain or snow, nothing beats being out in the fresh air, moving their bodies and connecting with nature. Outdoor play has been proven to aid in emotional development and better sleep.
Set screen limits. It’s easier for young minds to navigate if there are established parameters and without time limits, it’s too hard to self regulate.
Let them get bored. They’ll learn to listen to their own thoughts and will eventually figure something out to do. Coming up with an idea is how free play begins.
Lead by example. Take time out for yourself, unplug, read, walk, listen, daydream. Be a role model for self care and a healthy imagination.
PLAY= BUILDING BETTER BRAINS & HUMANS
Science has clearly proven that PLAY is directly linked to learning. Children are naturally wired to engage in play. Their brains undergo the most dramatic growth in the first 10 years of life, in fact, more brain development happens during this early period than any other time of life. Not only is PLAY imperative for cognitive development, socio-emotional development, content, knowledge, skills and physical development are all directly related to PLAY. PLAY engages the whole child and we as a society benefit from children who are allowed this fundamental freedom.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of PLAY, The Lego Foundation has published this fantastic resource: Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence